Exercises for the fret hand

Hi there,

I’ve started Justin’s course 2 years ago, but had a rough start and had to take several longer breaks, so I am still right at the beginning (or better said I’ll be starting there again).
A major problem I have is with my finger reach on my fret hand. Especially the ring finger and the pinky. My pinky is also slightly bent (Clinodactyly), which makes things even more difficult.

I really started to struggle when trying the Peter Gunn theme…just barely making the back part of the fret.
But also the with the other cords in the beginning of the course I’m struggling a bit to reach the front of the fret on some strings.

I know stretching would help, but the question is…how would one do that best?
Are there any recommended exercises outside of playing I could do to help my fret hand?
Exercises without guitar would have the benefit that I could do them during meetings, etc. where I don’t have my guitar at hand.

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I have been struggling with this too. I have stretched and stretched and while an excellent idea, it is not the whole story at all.

In order to space you fingers and for them to line up closer to what you want, you need to engage and strengthen muscles you have hardly used your entire life. Stretch to keep healthy, but work to strengthen.

I would look at Justin’s spider exercise video. Learn. It and do it with extreme and slow intent of movement to try and line up and reach where you want your fingers to go. Don’t just try and get to each string, try to get to each string correctly (won’t be for a while, but try) and try to keep the other fingers where they should be without flailing or pulling off the right spot ( as best you can at first).

It is very, very difficult and progress is going to be slow, like many months at best. Do it at least once every day for no more than a few minutes at a time.

Find similar exercises. Justin has a pinky exercise as well and there are others online.

Start where the frets are closer together if you want.

The main idea, though, is to discover, engage and work the muscles that move the finger the way you need to.

It should be hard, it should take effort, it can hurt so be careful and don’t over do it. The stretches help prevent injury.

I wish I had been doing this every day for the last year. Start now! Be careful, like any strenuous exercise (and believe me, if you are doing it right it is strenuous) you can over do it and hurt yourself. Hence just a few min at a time.


Very solid advice from @Jamolay. It does take time, so don’t expect fast results and don’t over do it.


Here’s a video for Justin’s finger stretching exercise. Also one for the finger gym, in case you want to work on that too. I usually do these daily as a warm up, before my technique or song practice.


Thank you! All of that was exactly what I was looking for.
Slow progress doesn’t bother me…I just want to see any progress and if I don’t get that problem fixed I think I won’t really be able to progress any furhter without getting super frustrated (well…already am a bit).

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I would say the takeaway point is start now and do it every practice. If you don’t, you will be like me and wish you had.

I just got lazy and there are more fun things to practice. But, if you do it with full effort, you only will need (or be able to do) a few minutes a day at least for a while.

I am also starting this exercise. Slurs (hammer ons/pickoffs) are more advanced than I am yet (in classical) but my attempts are so incredibly comical that I better start now to have a hope when I need it.

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Hi Ben and welcome

As Ross suggested I would strongly recommend this but the key is to do it real slow. My aging hands frequently loose their flexibility if I have not been playing scales, licks or lead type pieces, so I still do this as part of my warm up. I’ll generally start at the 7th fret and work down to the 1st fret. For the pinkie it is especially good to do the 123-4 or 1-23-4 stretches but slowness is key.

IMHO the Spider is a good exercise for dexterity and accurate fretting but less beneficial for actually stretching. But hey I do that as well anyway !!


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I think I was think this exercise when I wrote spider. My bad. But you can turn the spider exercise into a stretch exercise if you want.

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A lot of good advice has been given already…so maybe it’ll help you to know that this is a common issue. I am now struggling with my ring finger and pinky too, when I started adding variations to the C and G chords it seemed like it was impossible for my fingers. And also in the exercises for fingers allignment at the beginning they flied everywhere and took a lot of effort to get them in place. Do your exercises everyday slow and without overdoing, not sure one exercise is better than the other at this stage, the key is consistency. It takes time. Happy patient practice :blush:

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Thank you all for your help and support!
Did start with the first stretching session today and will continue tomorrow :slight_smile:

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Super, that you’ve already started :-D. Stretching exercises are also a part of my daily practice routine. And yes, progress is really very slow, but at least recognizable :wink: .

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Yeah I’ve started and I can say…everyone of you didn’t exaggerate the taking it slow part.
On my first try I now went down and up the string 3 times each and I was done for.

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So true. I do one set of the slur exercise, one stretching exercise and a few scales focused on finger placement and I need a break!

I would say the single most important thing, if you do the exercises correctly, it to start yesterday and do them daily.

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